What is Ebola? What to know about symptoms, vaccine, outbreaks

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
By Paul Martin

The current Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in August and has killed 1,390 people.

June 12, 2019

Ebola is a virus that causes an especially deadly and virulent form of hemorrhagic fever. Patients bleed internally and usually die of shock and the effects of high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. There’s no good treatment and no cure.

The 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic started in Guinea and was the largest and most complex outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976, according to the World Health Organization.

The current epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo is now the second largest outbreak, with more than 2,000 cases and 1,390 deaths.

The virus spreads by direct contact, either between people or with bodily fluids from someone very ill with Ebola, or who has died from it.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?
The first symptoms include the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. That’s followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding, such as oozing from the gums or blood in the stool.

The incubation period — the time between infection and when a person begins to show symptoms — is two to 21 days, according to WHO.

When did Ebola originate?
Ebola virus disease first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Africa, WHO notes. One of them took place in a village near the Ebola River, which is how the virus got its name. Ebola is transmitted to people from wild animals.

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